It's not such a silly question. I often spent all day, every day, in my office and not get any actual writing done that week. But not anymore. I recently decided to reserve 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. four days a week to actual writing.
After only a couple of days, I realized I needed to define "writing." Does revising a draft count? (Yes, I decided.) Does reading a general writing book not specifically related to any current works? (No.) What about everything in-between, which I named "parawriting" because it's related to current projects but doesn't involve doing something with an actual manuscript?
To keep myself honest and make sure I put in at least 20 hours of working on a manuscript, I defined the following as "writing" when keeping track of my 20+ writing hours per week:
- writing, rewriting, revising, or polishing a manuscript
- submitting stories to markets
- researching subjects directly related to a manuscript
- blogging at the book-related blog "Meal Times"
- designing book covers, bookmarks, and postcards
- preparing manuscripts for self-publication
- uploading manuscripts for publication
The following, however, got defined as "parawriting" and don't count toward my minimum of 20 hours a week:
- nagging magazines that published my stories but didn't pay me for them
- critiquing other people
- attending critique groups
- attending professional conferences
- reading background for a actual or potential book or story
- reading books about becoming a better writer
- blogging at my personal blog, "For Love of Words," or here at "Novel Spaces"
- preparing a schedule for my writing week and writing month
- updating my account book
- writing reviews at GoodReads or Amazon.com
- all marketing and promotion (except for designing bookmarks and postcards)
- straightening my office
Now I'm moving my drafts forward, and I'm getting new words down. Best of all, I'm no longer baffled by not knowing where the time I spend in my office goes. I was devoting too much time to parawriting and not enough to writing.
Parawriting tasks are essential and they are legitimate to do during working hours. But they shouldn't squeeze out actual writing. And now they no longer are for me. Goodbye, frustration! Hello, high productivity!
What is your relationship with parawriting? Are you able to balance parawriting and writing? Or does one squeeze out the other, leaving you unable to proceed?
In my next "Novel Spaces" post, I'll tell you about Conquest, the science fiction and fantasy convention held yearly in Kansas City, which I'm attending this week and weekend. See you on June 6!